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Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky

Hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians have gained coverage, and millions more have had their coverage substantially improved

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years. The data show that the uninsured rate in Kentucky has fallen by 61 percent since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010, translating into 404,000 Kentuckians gaining coverage. And, in addition to residents who would otherwise be uninsured, millions more Kentuckians with employer, Medicaid, individual market, or Medicare coverage have also benefited from new protections as a result of the law.

“As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Kentuckians get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

Highlights of today’s data release include:

Employer Coverage: 2,316,000 people in Kentucky are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, this group has seen:

  • An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 1,414,000 Kentuckians with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Kentuckians with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
  • Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 31,000 young adults in Kentucky have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.
  • Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 1,884,719 people in Kentucky, most of whom have employer coverage.
  • Slower premium growth: The average premium for Kentucky families with employer coverage grew 4.5 percent per year from 2010-2015, compared with 6.5 percent over the previous decade. Assuming Kentucky premiums grew in line with the national average in 2016, family premiums in Kentucky are $2,300 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.
  • Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Kentuckians with employer coverage have received $5,474,533 in insurance refunds since 2012.

Medicaid: 1,220,788 people in Kentucky are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 555,243 children and 96,363 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

  • 151,000 Kentuckians have gained coverage through Medicaid: An estimated 151,000 Kentuckians have health insurance today because Kentucky expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health, resulting in an estimated 17,000 more Kentuckians getting all needed care, 21,500 fewer Kentuckians struggling to pay medical bills, and 180 avoided deaths each year.
  • Thousands of Kentuckians with a mental illness or substance use disorder are getting care: Thanks to expansion and improved access to treatment, an estimated 14,000 fewer Kentuckians are experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • Kentucky is saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $160 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Kentucky is getting $2 billion in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed coverage.
  • Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Kentuckians could more easily access and maintain coverage.
  • Kentucky can better fight opioids: Under the ACA, CMS provided technical assistance that is giving Kentucky the opportunity to strengthen Medicaid services for people struggling with opioid abuse or other substance use disorders (SUDs). For example, Kentucky received support to: better identify individuals with an SUD; expand coverage for effective SUD treatment; enhance SUD care delivered to beneficiaries; and develop payment mechanisms for SUD services that incentivize better outcomes.

Individual market: 74,640 people in Kentucky have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

  • No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 1,894,874 people in Kentucky have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Kentuckians could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 56,488 moderate- and middle-income Kentuckians receive tax credits averaging $258 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.
  • Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Kentucky.
  • Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Kentucky has received $8 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 11 plans on average.

Medicare: 881,938 people in Kentucky are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade. In addition, Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

  • Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 89,343 Kentucky seniors are saving $99 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $1,108 per beneficiary.
  • Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 461,771 Kentucky seniors, or 73 percent of all Kentucky seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.
  • Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Kentucky Medicare beneficiaries dropped 9 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 2,384 times Kentucky Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 
  • More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 22 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Kentucky now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.
Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
Content last reviewed on December 13, 2016
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